North Xtra: Pine-Richland junior leaps to success

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Kat Quigley is all business on the track, but it's not uncommon to catch her doing a handstand or two between heats.

She likes to balance pleasure with play and it has become a ritual to do handstands with her teammates before practice.

The Pine-Richland junior is ranked among the finest of the WPIAL Class AAA in the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. Her toughest competitors are Hempfield's Maddie Holmberg and Shaler's Tori Soeder.

All three ran the 100 hurdles within hundredths of a second of each other this year and all want gold at the WPIAL Class AAA individual championships today at Baldwin. Holmberg is the reigning champion in both events.

"It's a tough hurdle field," Pine-Richland hurdles coach Bill Crummy said. "It's going to be a tight field, too. The one thing with the hurdles, it's important that you run your own race."

Quigley and Holmberg both won the 300-meter hurdles at their respective qualifier meets with the same time of 44.36. Soeder edged Quigley in the 100 hurdles at the Class AAA Northern qualifiers with a time of 14.53. Quigley placed second with 14.58.

What makes the competition more difficult?

All three runners are friends.

Quigley and Holmberg both played club volleyball for Pittsburgh Elite last year. Both were outside hitters.

"We are good friends," Quigley said. "It's going to be a crazy race. [Racing against friends] brings out the competitiveness in me."

Quigley is excelling in her first full year of hurdles. A Pine resident, she transferred to Pine-Richland after her freshman year at Oakland Catholic because it was closer to home. She ran track at Oakland Catholic, but concentrated in sprints.

She continued along that route at Pine-Richland until Crummy pulled her aside at practice last season and asked her to try jumping the hurdles.

"I've seen a lot of hurdles," Crummy said. "The biggest thing is the hip flexibility on the trail leg. She has the flat out speed and natural hurdle ability."

Quigley currently holds the school record in the 300 hurdles, which she set at the Pine-Richland Invitational. She also broke the meet record of 45.20, formerly set by Emily Lelis of Springdale, with her time of 44.95.

She hasn't given up sprints completely. Quigley also runs on the 400 and 1600-meter relay teams, but hurdles have stirred her true passion for track and athletics.

"You can sprint as fast as you can and be able to go over huge objects and keep going," Quigley said. "I never thought I'd be able to do that. It just changed everything inside me."

Quigley hopes to continue to feed off her love for athletics beyond high school.

She'd like to compete in college while majoring in physical therapy.

Basically, she'd be happy with anything that keeps her away from a desk and makes her as active as possible.

"I love anything with the outdoors," she said. "That's why track is so good for me, because it's outside."

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